Grandpa Webb's blog

Monday, 16 December 2013

Mine’s a pint

I’m not what you would call a drinking man. For a start I have the sort of face that barpersons cannot see.

Grandpa WebbI have lost count of the number of times I have been in the crowded bar of a busy pub, hopefully waving aloft a crisp £10 note along with all the others, only to be last to hear the immortal words: “Yes sir, what can I get you?”

The number of pubs in Britain has been declining for many years, and this seems to have accelerated after the ban on smoking came into force in 2006/07. Those that are left have had to transform themselves from what were ale houses where children were banned, to places that also offered good food and catered for families. And they need to stay open a lot longer than they used to.

I was therefore a bit surprised when Emma, one of my nieces, and her husband Andy, took over the licence of their local pub, which is handily situated just along the road from their house.

The pub is owned by a group of people in a Buckinghamshire village. Some years ago, when the previous owners closed it and put it up for sale, a number of villagers formed a shareholder group and bought it to preserve it as a village amenity and prevent it becoming another property development. One of the advantages of an amenity, I suppose, is that you can say: “I’m going along to the amenity;” instead of “I’m going to the pub.”

In keeping with its status of a village amenity, earlier this summer, when the licence changed hands, lots of volunteers from the village turned out to help update it from what was a tired old pub into something more in tune with the 21st century.

Now it’s got a lot of new fashionable grey paint, new furniture and lighting, refurbished loos and they’ve taken out the old bar and fitted a new one in a different place to create a lounge area where us old boys can go and watch sport on the telly. And they did all that in three weeks.

Mine is a pintIt’s a free house, so they can stock what beer they like, and they have engaged a creative chef to take care of the food (apparently many chefs have their creative instincts crushed by hotel and pub managers who tell them exactly what to cook rather than allowing them to create their own menus. This one was fed up with cooking lasagne and curry).

He has put together a menu that includes pub favourites such as steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and a ploughman’s lunch, but also more exotic stuff like seared scallops with cauliflower puree, chorizo, pea shoots and curry oil or slow roast pork belly, savoy cabbage, black pudding, crackling, apple and ginger puree, dauphinoise and cider jus. There’s also a kid’s menu. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of lasagne anywhere.

Of course, as us oldies will tell you, a pub is a lot of work. I can almost hear myself saying: “You’re open every day of the week, including bank holidays…” Well, that isn’t true in this case. The pub is closed on Mondays, but opens for the rest of the week. From Tuesday to Saturday it offers morning coffee and pastries, which on weekdays might appeal to locals who have just dropped off the kids at school.

You might think that’s enough to revitalise an old pub, but there’s more. They have events. Along with many others I get regular emails telling me what’s coming up, so I have no excuse for missing, for example, the Beaujolais Nouveau Day and the special French menu, or the New Year’s Eve party.

In amenity status role it has already hosted the village cricket club’s annual dinner and a quiz night run by a local charity. For those who want more than a quiet pint, you may find yourself entertained in the evening by an Elvis impersonator or one of the girl singers from the TV show the X Factor. 

Certainly I’ll be dropping in. After all, when you’re ‘family’ you are guaranteed to get served quickly at the relocated bar…

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